Going to the Design Center
Let me tell you about our big day at the design center.
We had already thought so much through before going, which seemed to help out quite a bit. We had started discussing the idea of building a home 3 months prior; we were just waiting on a lot to become available. So, in those 3 months, we spent that time coming up with color palettes and mood boards for the interior spaces of the home. Come to find out, that process happening before the design center helped us so much!
Because of scheduling, we had both our appointments in a single day. 2 2-hour appointments to pick every choice in our house, from what color cabinets to where we wanted certain electrical outlets and wiring. It's a lot to discuss! Most people have those on separate days for good reason. We just went with it since we didn't have a choice in that, but I like to think we handled it pretty well.
If you're in the same boat working with a production builder, here are a few things we did PRIOR to our trip to the design center that made decision making much smoother while there:
- SET A BUDGET - This one is HUGE. Things add up fast in the design center, and if you're not careful, before you know it, you'll be making all your choices again because you blew your budget. Most builders give you an incentive amount to spend at the design center that is built into the cost of your home. At least with our builder, once you pass that number, you are required to pay half of the overages at the design center out of pocket. The other half is tacked onto your final closing costs.
- KNOW WHAT YOU'RE WILLING TO SPLURGE ON, AND WHAT YOU'RE NOT - The whole decision making process at the design center is a TON of give and take. Having a discussion about what you're willing to splurge on, and what you're not, before heading to the design center is crucial so you're on the same page. For us, we were willing to splurge on our kitchen countertops (upgrade), but not the main flooring choice (standard) since there was so much of it.
- RESEARCH COSTS - To make your life easier, you can pick EVERYTHING at the design center for your home. I'm talking everything. But that comes with a price tag, and if you don't do your research, you could be getting majorly upcharged simply for it being an easy choice. But let me add, some things were worth it to have them do for you. This is why it's so important to do your research! The main areas to research would be faucets, lighting (interior and exterior), tankless water heater, kitchen sink, and appliances. For us, we had them block and wire several areas where we wanted to add our own lighting instead of purchasing from their small selection. We also got the standard kitchen faucet installed because the upgrade fee was ASTRONOMICAL. Changing a faucet out yourself is easy (so says my husband), and saves a ton to get what you actually want. There are also hidden (read, "unexpected") charges for how tile is laid. You'd think plain white subway tile would be cheap because it is in Lowe's...but here, they charge you a crazy amount for it to be installed because of the labor required. Oy. Dumb. Same with wood-look tiles. "Oh, you have to pay extra to have that laid correctly." Insert eye roll here.
- ASK AROUND - Know anyone who has been through this process before? Ask them for their advice, and if there's anything they love or hate about their choices. One friend said she has no room in her master bath for a towel bar by the sink because of a wall cabinet. Just one of those little things you don't think about until you're living in it! So now that's something I'm checking on. Also, another friend told me to add electrical outlets to the eaves of the house for Christmas lights! I'm MAJORLY excited about this one!
- CREATE A COLOR PALETTE - We went into the design center with pinterest boards for different areas of our home, just so we could have a reference point of what we like, as well as being able to envision finishes together quickly while making decisions. We knew we wanted grays, warmth, and modern simplicity. Making choices around those concepts made it easy to weed out a lot of choices. If we didn't go in with an idea, I think the process would have been too overwhelming! I can't even imagine going in without a plan! Maybe because I'm such a planner...
Back to design day...okay, so we've just been called back to begin our appointment. The gal we were paired with started explaining her process and that we will start by choosing cabinets, then backsplash, then counters, and so on and so on. She wanted us to pick one by one without seeing the options available for what will be paired next to our cabinets. Or next to our countertops.
I stopped her right there.
"Look, if we can see everything all at once, and pair it down to a few choices, I know we will be able to make our selections much faster than picking our items one by one..."
It definitely threw her off, because they go in a particular order for every set of clients. It's a routine they're used to. But when it comes to picking out something we will be living with for years, I'm willing to step forward and let her know how we work best! And we work best in a "big picture" sort of way. Luckily, she obliged and let us do our thing! Within 15 minutes, we had selected our cabinet style and color, our countertops, and our backsplash!
We kept making decisions left and right until our first appointment was over. It just FLEW by.
Fast forward to 3pm. More decisions. This was supposed to be a wrap up appointment where we signed off on everything. Well, guess who had to make a 3rd trip to the design center...
A week later, I showed up to complete the process and sign off on everything. I learned that some of our requests could not be done through the design center, but if you ask your home builder rep the same question, chances are they know how to make it happen! For example, glass front cabinets. The lady I worked with at the design center told me that painted cabinets are not able to have glass front inserts with this manufacturer...which was wrong. A previous manufacturer couldn't do it, but the current one could (because guess who did their research!).
It's just little things like that. I felt like every 'no' was worth asking again to our home rep. And almost every 'no' has, in fact, turned into a 'yes.' So if you find yourself on the same path as us with a production builder, be bold and be "that person" who asks ALL the questions.
So there you have it! A quick summary of our experience at the design center...hopefully if you're in the same boat, some of the things that helped us will help with your build too! I scoured the internet before going for tips and couldn't find any, hence me thinking I should share our experience. Chances are, if I'm looking, someone else probably is too!